A memorial space flight dedicated to the cast and crew of the original Star Trek TV show just added another star to its passenger list.
DeForest Kelly — who played Leonard “Bones” McCoy, the doctor on the Starship Enterprise — will be introduced with a thimble-sized DNA sample in next year’s Enterprise Flight. Kelly died in 1999 at the age of 79, but DNA was extracted from a hair sample that remained after his death.
The Flight of the enterprisehosted by Houston Celestis, will send capsules containing the cremated remains and DNA of dozens of people into deep space late this year or early next year. The Celestis payload is to ride on the Centaur upper stage for the United Launch Alliance’s first launch Rocket Vulcan. (Yes, Spock fans…that is Volcano.)
The prime directive for running Vulcan is this send Astrobotic’s Peregrine lander to the surface of the Moon for a NASA-backed mission, but after Centaur is done, it will go into a “graveyard orbit” around the Sun with the capsules packed aboard the spacecraft.
In addition to Kelly, Star Trek characters featured on the flight include Nichelle Nichols (who played Lt. Uhura), James Doohan (who played Scotty, the starship’s chief engineer), Majel Barrett Roddenberry (Nurse Chappell), series creator Gene Roddenberry and visual effects master Douglas Trumbull. Nicholas’ ashes and DNA were there added to the Celestid Manifesto just a couple of weeks ago.
Charles Chafer, co-founder and CEO of Celestis, took note of this fact today is Star Trek Day. “It is particularly remarkable that we are announcing the addition of DeForest Kelly to our Star Trek Day flight of the Enterprise,” he said in a press release. “No deep space mission would be complete without a ship’s doctor.”
When Kelly died so many years ago, his wife Carolyn asked a family friend and caregiver named Chris M. Smith to cut off a couple of locks of the actor’s hair as a memorial. Caroline herself passed away in 2004, but Smith kept the hair sample. That year, when news of the Enterprise flight spread, Smith reached out through mutual contact and offered to give the sample to Celestis for DNA extraction and inclusion in the flight.
“I donated a lock of hair so that De could join his companions on their eternal journey into interstellar space. The mission simply wasn’t complete without Dr. McCoy on board,” Smith said. “I think De would like to ‘galactically hop’ again with his cast and crew mates. So, ‘second star to the right and straight on ’till morning, De! Loving you was easier than anything we’ll ever do again!”
Celestis created a site where Trek fans (and anyone else for that matter) can submit their names to be included in the flight as tiny lines of text that laser engraved on an inch wide nickel disc. Submitting your name is free, but you can add a personal message or photo for an additional fee.